Live Blogging! #CraftBeer Run to Georgia. Visiting Burnt Hickory @BHB_brews, @BrickStorePub and More!

August 17, 2013

Hey y’all. It’s time for another edition of beer travel with Ratchet. Today’s trip is to Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw, GA. This trip came about when my good friends and fellow Knox Beer Crew members Terry and Aimee invited me along for the ride. Being that drinking craft beer and checking out new breweries are my favorite things, I couldn’t resist! It just happened to work out that I got a nice bonus at work the day before, so I can do some bottle shopping as well. Terry told me all about this brewery. They are a nano, brewing on a 2 barrel system. Apparently they only offer tours once a month on a Saturday from noon until 5pm. The tour cost $10 and you get a glass and five four ounce samples. You can buy more samples if you please. They really try to make this a big event with music, food and brewery exclusives every hour. I’m really looking forward to checking them out, trying their beers and learning more about the nano-brewery business.

I’ll be providing a play by play of the day’s trip. So far the plan is to spend the day at Burnt Hickory and possibly drive down to Decatur to check out the world famous Brick Store Pub and also do some bottle shopping. So check back periodically for updates and live vicariously through us!

11:20 am. We are in Kennesaw. Currently eating lunch at Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria. This place was featured on the tv show, Man vs. Food. Starting the drinking day by splitting a bottle of Terrapin’s Golden Ale. This is Georgia exclusive, only available for purchase in the peach state.

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11:39 am: At Burnt Hickory. Just bought my glass and tickets. Getting ready for my first pour.

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Burnt Hickory from the parking lot. You’d never know it was there.

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My tasting glass and tickets

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12:30 pm: It’s rainy outside but it’s nice inside. A lot of good people & beers. Taking my time and on my second beer, 9353, a Belgian Peach IPA. Very good!

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Draft list at Burnt Hickory

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My friends Aimee and Terry

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A view inside

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Yes I get excited by grains

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The Millennium Falcon, Burnt Hickory’s 1 barrel Blichmann Brewhouse, essentially this is what I have without the fancy brew stand.

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Climate controlled fermentation room

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Only a brewery geek & aspiring nano-brewer like myself would say “Look at the ventalation sysytem, I better get a picture of that.”

1:05 pm: Just did the tour & tried a rare taste of Noggin Knocker Imperial Egg Nog Milk Stout. Wow!

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The Burnt Hickory’s personal beer cellar and stash. Talk about seeing beer geeks drool!

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Dark Lord anyone?

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These guys have a serious stash

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More of Burnt Hickory’s stash

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Stuff that they’ve bottled in the past

1:09 pm: Drinking a kick ass Mojito IPA.

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My Mojito IPA at the tasting room. Big lines at this point.

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They are using Corny kegs just like I do!

1:40 pm. I absolutely LOVE this brewery! I’m learning so much! Just got some amazing advice from head brewer, Will.

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2:30 pm: I tried to upload video but phone keeps dieing. Meeting great people, drinking amazing beer. Lines are long at this point & I’m a little bit buzzed. Here’s a pic of my new friends John, Bob & Mary:

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I met so many friendly people like my new friends, John, Bob and Mary.

Here’s another video of the tour:

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3:30 pm: Me Ratchet. Me drunk. Lucky me no drive. Me now talk like caveman. Me hungry. What me just drinked be on untappd.

6 pm: Ok, ok I sobered up & came to outta cave man mode. We left Burnt Hickory & headed to ATL. We just stopped at Greene’s liquor store where I bought some rarities. We are now heading to Brick Store Pub where our friends have a table for us.

What I picked up at Green's

What I picked up at Green’s

6:15 pm: At Brick Store. I just ordered Straffe Hendrick Quad.

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Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is very good!

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Knoxville friends from Left to right: George, Sammi, Aimee, Terry and Ratchet.

7:37 pm: I had to take a break and eat something. Didn’t finish my delicious beer. We walked over to Twain’s Brew pub. I just ordered a flight, even though I don’t think I can drink it all. We are going to The Porter Beer Bar next.

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Twain’s

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Sign at Twain’s

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Twain’s house beer list

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I had a flight.

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9:45 pm: Walked around Little 5 Points. Bought clothes at Rag-O-Rama. Had one last beer at The Porter Bar. Drank WestBrook’s One Claw. We are now in the car heading back to Knoxville. I’d like to thank Terry and Aimee again for taking me on this trip. My phone wouldn’t cooperate on loading all the videos and pictures. I’ll try again soon.

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The door to the Porter Beer Bar

Beer list at Porter Beer Bar

Beer list at Porter Beer Bar

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Bar at Porter

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The sign outside where we were allowed to drink our beer on the sidewalk in Little 5 Points. There were cops standing everywhere and they just didn’t care. This is in major contrast to Knoxville.

Thanks for following along. Just a few more things I’d like to let y’all know about. This Thursday, August 22nd I’ll be infusing Flat 12 bierwork’s Cucumber Kolsch with lemons, cilantro and basil at Suttree’s starting at 6. This is going to be good, trust me. I hope y’all can make it out. Also this Saturday is the Knox Beer Crew tasting, taking place at Vic’s. More info on the calendar at KnoxBeerCrew.com

Until next time….
Cheers,
Ratchet


A #KnoxBeerCrew goodbye to @BigMagicBeer, A quick #beer run to #Asheville w/ @Booze_Traveler and Animal and notes about @KPTOktoberfest

July 23, 2013

It’s been almost a month since my last post. A combination of being incredibly busy and not having anything substantial to write about are my excuses. I haven’t brewed for a while, and still have to keg the 40 or so gallons sitting in my fermentation room.  It seems like everytime I plan on doing my “beer chores”, life happens.

Since then I have cut back substantially on my craft beer intake (as anyone who follows me on untappd has probably noticed.) I did have a fun night on the Star of Knoxville’s “Booze Cruise”. They didn’t have any beer I liked, so I stayed with mix drinks on that one.

Last Saturday was a going away party for one of the Knox Beer Crew‘s most notorious members. Our own Nick “Big Magic” Walsh. He recently accepted a job offer back in his home state of Michigan. Nick still has many friends up there, along with his family. He was a major part of the scene here and ran the Knox Hopnings facebook page. Everyone in town has at least one or two wild and crazy Nick stories to tell. I’ll never forget my trip to GABF last year with him and some of the other guys. I’m sure Nick will come back a couple of times a year to visit (at least we hope so). So Big Magic, we’ll miss you bro. Good luck with your new job, and don’t forget about us down here in lil’ ol’ Knoxvegas.

Bye Nick! We'll miss ya bro!

Bye Nick! We’ll miss ya bro!

On Sunday I was able to take a quick trip to Bruisin’ Ales with my good friends Scott Kirkham aka Booze Traveler and Jason Anderson aka Animal. Scott mentioned to me a few days before that he was planning to go there and back and I asked if I could ride along. We met at my office around 10 am. An hour and 45 minutes later we pulled up to Bruisin’. We were there a little early so we hung outside waiting for them to open. A couple from Louisville arrived to wait as well. I said it almost looked like we were lining up for a rare bottle release, we just needed a few more people.
Well the time came and Jason (not co-owner Jason) let us in. The first thing I did was ask about sip-n-shop. I got a pour of Pisgah’s Tripel and a pour of Sweetwater’s  Waterkeeper Hefeweizen. I had reserved one of the last bottles of Allagash’s 2013 Confluence. I was really lucky to get one considering there were only 6 bottles available in all of Western North Carolina. I follow Bruisin’ Ales Twitter and Facebook feed. When they post the rarities (and they do), I know to call and reserve them.

We hung out pursuing the selection, talking to other shoppers and generally beer geeking out. After a while we made our purchases, and said our goodbyes. Where next guys? Animal and Booze Traveler were hungry but I convinced them to go check out Appalachian Vintner before lunch. We arrived and realized that they are closed on Sundays, so we drove back downtown for food and beer at Wicked Weed.

Tap list at Wicked Weed Downstairs on 7/21/13

Tap list at Wicked Weed Downstairs on 7/21/13

We walked in and headed downstairs. I started with a 10 ounce pour of the XIII Mango Cumin Saison. The guys grabbed menus from the bar while I was content to munch on the free pretzels for my lunch. After finishing my drink, I opted for a 6 pour flight. Animal ordered a bison burger which he swears is his favorite, and Booze Traveler went with a cheese plate. Ol’ Boozie handed me a small chunk of blue cheese. “Here, let this melt in your mouth and then take a sip of your Black Angel Cherry Sour.” I did as he said and inadvertently blurted out “holy s**t that’s good!” The combination was the best cheese and beer pairing I have ever had. While drinking our beer, co-owner and brewer Walt dropped by  our table to say hi. We talked for a few minutes and he let slip that they plan on doing some 750ml releases out of their barrel program soon. These bottles will be really limited, and I’ll be sure to try to get my share.

We finished our meal and noticed dark clouds on the horizon. The forecast had called for storms, so we decided that it was time to head back to Knoxville.

It was a great and quick trip and I’m glad that we live so close that we can spend 6 hours and have a mini-getaway. Thanks again Scott for letting me ride with ya. Everyone please check out his blog that mentions our trip.

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A couple more things I want to mention in this post. Kingsport Oktoberfest is happening Saturday September 28th. Tickets are on sale with the limited edition VIP packages selling quickly. From what I am told, there are only a few memberships and VIPs left. The extras are well worth the price. This has to be my favorite beer festival of the year. Each year this event gets bigger and better. Once again I am looking forward to pouring my homebrew and doing a workshop at Beer University. Das Krew has recently added Instagram to their social media arsenal. If you are on Instagram, give them a follow. They are also trying to increase the twitter followers as well. There have been some contest for retweets are followers lately, so don’t miss out.

And now about my beer shopping habits...

And now about my beer shopping habits…

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Well ever since my last beercation for Asheville Beer Week, I’ve been in debt. I guess that’s what happens when I spend my savings and max out my credit cards. I’ve been doing fairly good about paying it off and not spending too much, but the bad part is I don’t go out as often as I use to and I haven’t had any beer adventures until last Sunday. See, I do have a problem. My problem is that I don’t seem to be able to pass up buying hard to find and rare beers when they become available online. I have several websites bookmarked that I look at frequently. Every once in a while I see something super rare and highly rated that I just got to HAVE. This is the case in point with Luekens Liquors down in Florida. They carry a great variety of Cigar City beers. Sometimes they list a rarity and it’s usually sold out by the next day. I was doing my window shopping last week when this appeared. As I sat there reading the description, I looked down and saw that I had already subconsciously pulled my credit card out of my wallet. Oh well, what’s another 2 weeks of making payments on my credit if it’s going to get me rare beer and make me happy?

So I thought I’d be an enabler and post a list of online shops that ship. Y’all know that Bruisin’ Ales does right? Well what about these?

Another beer purchased off the internet. Specifically, Luekens Liquors.

Another beer purchased off the internet. Specifically, Luekens Liquors.

Luekens Liquors. Ships from the bay area of Florida. They charge for shipping and packaging, but I’ve never had a bottle break. They ship in heavy duty cardboard boxes. Usually takes a week or more to get here.

France 44. Based in Minnesota. Slow shipping but great selection.

Quality Liquor Store. Based in San Diego, sometimes they have Russian River stuff, but it sells quick. I ordered one time and they substituted a bottle of something. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way, being that I got no notification that they were going to do so.

20 West Wine and Spirits. Based out of Illinois, carries a lot of Three Floyds, Pipeworks and other area goodies. Quick shipping but expensive.

Let’s Pour. Decent selection and usually has free shipping if you buy enough. Based on the West Coast and ships slowly. Packaged great but I am always afraid of temperature extremes during shipping in the summer months.

HalfTime Beverages. Based in New York and with a great selection and the best packaging of craft beer I have ever seen. I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again.

These are ones I have dealt with. There are more listed under the trade tab at the Knox Beer Crew Website. I hope this helps you find some stuff you have been looking for, ore new things to try. If this has been helpful, please let me know when your order gets in and lets meet for a beer. Until next time…

Cheers,

Ratchet


Live from @KnoxBrewFest, The Last Official Event of @KnoxBeer Week #KCBW

June 29, 2013

Hey y’all, Live posting for 2013 Knox Brew Fest here that Southern Railway Terminal. Going to post until my iPhone battery dies. I’ll be too busy to write, so the plan is to upload as many picture and videos as possible. I really want to focus on the attendees, so come by the Ratchet Brews booth and get your picture taken. Come back and see yourself on here.

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Myself, Todd and Richard at our booth

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Myself, Todd and Richard at our booth

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Hops

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The booth right after we set up

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Glassware for sale

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Shirts for sale

Gates are open for VIP. 4 pm for general admission. Come on by!

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Khaleesie and Todd

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The guys at the UBC booth were frying up bacon.

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Todd pouring that good ol’ Ratchet Brews

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Shirts

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Highland

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The infamous Aaron Russell.

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So glad to see wicked Weed here!

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Hoppyum? Yes please!

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My British friends

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AllianceBrewingCo.com

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Adam Ingle of Alliance Brewery. I can’t wait for these guys to get up and running.

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Alliance cask ESB is delicious!

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Thanks for the support!

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Neil from Yazoo

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Jason Smith of Knox Beer Crew @NGD69

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Old Style!

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Katie, myself and my buddy David Chisholm. My beer was his 500th Untappd Check in. So honored!

Katie, myself and my buddy David Chisholm. My beer was his 500th Untappd Check in. So honored!

Congrats to David Chisholm on earning his Untappd Legendary Badge by drinking my Apricot Honey Lager!

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Gingers unite!

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Every time you purchase a Ratchet Brews shirt, a brewer gets his… Mash paddle?

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Local social media guru, Kelly Absner

I met many of my blog and twitter followers in real life for the first time. I want to give a shout out to Jonathan Harris (@DrSkwurl), Landon Moore (@LanDub17) and everyone who stopped by the booth to say hi. Thanks everyone for the support, the encouraging words, the feedback and for purchasing merchandise. If we met, you tried our beer or your picture is on here, please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

Once again this year I ended the festival in decent shape. I just didn’t have time too drink much, being that I was so incredibly busy. I’d like to thank Richard, Todd and Katie for all their hard work and help with everything. After we packed up, we headed to Downtown Grill and Brewery for dinner. Our friends Aaron and Stephanie Carson from Kingsport Oktoberfest and Thirsty Orange joined us. We wanted to hang out longer, but it was a really long day and we were exhausted.

So that’s it for now. I still have some other post that I’m working on and hope to publish soon. Until then, check out the new twitter account @KnoxWaterWeek. I mean, after all, you need water to make beer. Since we had a whole Knoxville Craft Beer Week full of drinking, it’s time to give that liver a rest.

Cheers y’all,

Ratchet


It’s Been a Success! Knoxville Craft Beer Week, only 2 days left.

June 28, 2013

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Every day of this week has been a beer version of choose your own adventure. With so many great events each night, and only 1 of me, it was hard to pick what to attend. I started off #KCBW in what I consider “My neighborhood”, Downtown. Both Suttree’s and The Casual Pint had special cask to kick things off. The Casual Pint took it 1 step further and had Union Avenue closed down for a block party featuring bands playing and vittles from the Hoof Food truck. I visited Suttree’s first where I enjoyed a beer with a few friends before heading over to The Casual Pint. I didn’t stay out for very long. I actually went to bed super early so I could get up super early the next day.

One of the tap list boards at Suttree's

One of the tap list boards at Suttree’s

Sunday was brewday. I was up at 4:30 to prepare. The plan was to brew a batch of wheat beer and be completely finished with clean up and everything in time for the Knox Beer Crew meeting at Sunspot. Thanks to help from my good friends and assistant brewers, Todd and Richard, we did just that. My buddy Dalton, who has been missing in action showed up and lent a hand for awhile.  Friends Joy and Willie stopped by to lend support as well. We finished brewing in record time, and I was able to take a short 45 minute nap before heading out to Sunspot for our monthly tasting.

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The Knox Beer Crew Monthly tasting was an official Knoxville Craft Beer Week event, so we wanted to make sure it was done right. The usual suspects we there and we did it up bigtime. We met on the upstairs patio of Sunspot’s new location. A couple of us brought pop-up canopies to shade us from the hot summer sun. At this tasting we also did a swap meet, where some of us brought shirts, stickers, bottles and glassware to trade. I got a few things I have been wanting to try for awhile. I also got a couple of rarities. We had a few new members join us, and we had a great time. Everyone brought their A game to this tasting, by busting our rarities from the cellar and hard to find beers from all over. My buddy Jason Smith had just returned from a beercation in Vermont and brought my favorite DIPA, Heady Topper to share. Richard Groves brought a bottle of Rogue’s Voodoo Donut Chocolate Banana Peanut butter beer. I can’t even stand the smell of the last beer in this series, the Maple Bacon beer. The new one was only slightly better, but many people passed and those who did only took a tiny sip. There ended up being a 3/4th full bottle sitting there, getting warm. The next thing I know, I was being dared to chug it for a can of Heady Topper. I love Heady, but that was too much. I negotiated for 2 cans of Heady in exchange for this stunt. Jason Smith agreed, and the next thing I know I’m holding my breath and downing this nasty concoction straight from the big pink bottle. I did it and here are the videos proving it. Thanks to Matt Crowell and Animal for providing these.

The tasting ended and I packed up and got some water to go and hit the nearby greenway to walk a few miles, sweat and sober up before I drove home.

Knoxville Craft Beer Week Calendar

Knoxville Craft Beer Week Calendar

Monday was something we all looked forward to. The much sought after Foothills Sexual Chocolate and several other rare Foothills high gravity beers made their debut at Sunspot.

Foothills High Gravity Tap Takeover at Sunspot.

Foothills High Gravity Tap Takeover at Sunspot.

The local distributer had to move heaven and earth for the permits to go through in time to make this event happen. I headed there after work and met with more of the Knox Beer Crew. I love Sexual Chocolate and have had many opportunities to drink it. That is why my 1st beer was the Gruffmeister Maibock. While I was hanging out with my friends, I got a call from Cara at The Casual Pint. They were having an infusion night at the downtown location, and were having a hard time getting everything set up. They needed my help. I finished my beer, said my goodbyes and headed downtown.

Sexual Chocolate, Foothill's highly sought after seasonal.

Sexual Chocolate, Foothill’s highly sought after seasonal.

I arrived at The Casual Pint where they were having an infusion night with a new brand in town, Blue Pants Brewery. They were still struggling with getting the Dogfish Head style infuser working. After tinkering with it and bumping up the gas pressure significantly, I was able to get it flowing. The beer being infused was the Spare Pair Pale Ale  with Simcoe hops. I sat and talked with Blue Pants TN sales rep, Kimmie. She told me about the brewery and their line up. I look forward to trying more beers from them. I left The Casual Pint and headed over to Suttree’s. It was the Monday night, and Sut’s has started to do a bluegrass jam every Monday. This was also bartender Stanton’s birthday party, and there was a free keg of Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Thirsty Trout Porter. I had a drink and said happy birthday to Stanton, and hung out a little bit before calling it a night.

Tuesday there was a few things going on, but a friend of mine so graciously traded me a ticket to Dave Chappelle’s show at the Tennessee Theater. I just had a quick drink at Suttree’s before heading over to the show. Dave is a comic genius and the funniest person of this generation, but his show was marred by hecklers and other dumbasses who didn’t know how to behave. It was so bad, that many news outlets reported on it the next day. See Knoxville, this is why we can’t have nice things. Heed the signs next time, dumbasses.

Signs posted all over the TN theater. Too bad they were ignored.

Signs posted all over the TN theater. Too bad they were ignored.

Wednesday after work I headed over to The Casual Pint’s Bearden location for Highland Brewery’s bingo night. Highland founder Oscar Wong was there along with my friend and sales rep, Kitty. I sat and sipped on a dry hopped, cask conditioned Gaelic Ale. The place was packed and they ran out of bingo cards. Luckily I got one and played several rounds. It was fun, even though I didn’t win.

Bingo Night at The Casual Pint. Kitty from Highland and Nathan, owner of TCP

Bingo Night at The Casual Pint. Kitty from Highland and Nathan, owner of TCP

Thursday after work I went on a bike ride with my son downtown. We road around and stopped in really quick for some ice water at Suttree’s. Next door at Downtown Wine and Spirits, there was a free Victory and Southern Tier tasting. I tried several things while talking with several of my beer scene friends. We didn’t stay long. We rode around some more and ended up joining the patriotic bike parade through downtown. Afterwards I dropped him back off at his house. I left there and headed straight to Sunspot for barrel night. Many of my Brew Mob and Knox Beer Crew friends were there as well. There was more rare and tasty beers on tap upstairs. I tried several that I have been wanting for awhile. Here’s a Brew Mob video from last night.

A video of Don from Knox Beer Snobs from last night.

Tonight I’ll be infusing New Belgium’s Heavenly Feijoa with fruit at Suttree’s. This starts at 6, and I’m hoping to see you out. If I have time, I might stop by BBM later in the evening to see a few brewery friends.

Tomorrow is Knox Brew Fest at The Southern Railway Terminal. I will have a booth and be pouring my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout, Apricot Honey Lager, Maibock, Rauchbier and an IPA infused with hops. I will also have merchandise for sale, so bring extra money. I am looking forward to seeing everyone. I will be live picture and video blogging all day at the event, so come by the booth and you might end up on this blog.

This is all for now, I hope you are having a great week.

Cheers,

Ratchet 


Beer, Beer and More Beer! It’s time for Asheville Beer Week 2013 #AvlBeerWeek

May 26, 2013

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Ever since last year’s inaugural Asheville Beer Week, I’ve been looking forward to the second one. With every month, week and day that has passed, my excitement has grown. Now here I am, a mere day away from my week long beercation, and I can’t wait to be back in the Paris of the South. Last year I had so much fun that I knew that no other vacation would even come close. Why waste my precious vacation days from work on anything else? A trip to the beach? I grew up near them in Florida. Look at me, out in the sun I practically burst into flames like the vampires on True Blood. PASS. Camping in the woods? For a weekend, maybe, but a whole week living like some burnt out hermit? PASS. How about going to Europe? What kind of high roller, made-of-money, jet-setter do you think I am? PASS. What about going to the West Coast? Sure sounds like fun, but costs a whole lot more in travel than a trip across the Smokies.

Craft beer is my hobby and my passion. Combine that with a world-class city full of great restaurants, bottle shops, breweries, interesting architecture and incredibly kind and generous people… THAT is my kind of place. It’s what brings me back every chance I get.

Unfortunately, Katie and I won’t be there until Monday. We know we are missing Just Economic’s Just Brew-it Homebrew festival on Saturday and LaZoom’s Sunday Beer Run. I know from personal experience from attending many beer festivals that the ones that have homebrewers serving their creations are always the best. I did the LaZoom’s Beer Run last year and it was truly a highlight of beer week for me.

We do plan on making up for missing these events by attending as many things as possible between the Monday through Sunday that we’ll be there.

K and I were able to make a quick trip to Asheville and back on Friday night to attend Asheville Scene’s VIP kick-off party. We got to hang out and have a few beers with some good friends of mine, and make many new ones. I finally met several people I know from twitter in real life such as Thom O’Hearn, the beer writer for Mountain Xpress. I also met my fellow ABW guest blogger, James Raiford (we’re in the same shirt/media pass club). The rest of the crowd consisted of the beer-luminati of Asheville, from other bloggers and beer writers, to the Asheville Beer Week organizers, brewery owners, brewers and the godfather of the Asheville beer scene, Oscar Wong. It was a really short stay, but a great time. Katie drove us back to Knoxville afterwards. We both had a lot to do this weekend to prepare to be away from home for so long.

So here it is, my Sunday evening. Saturday, we hiked up Alum Cave Trail with a small cooler full of canned craft beers to sip while enjoying the view. I traded a rare beer yeast strain to a buddy in St. Pete and he sent me back a box full of Cigar City Deliciousness (Thanks Tom!). Sunday, I knew I needed to pack for the weekend, but had to brew a batch of my very much in demand Chocolate Covered Strawberry Stout. Tommorrow morning I will be going on a packing and loading the car rampage.. I hope I can remember to bring everything, including the homebrew I promised to a few Asheville friends.

I’ll be blogging every day for Asheville Beer Week. My plan is to start every morning by writing a recap and posting pictures of the previous day’s events. I will be tweeting as much as possible and posting my beer check-ins to Untappd. So, to my Knoxville friends who are planning on coming up at anytime during the week, text me so we can meet up. The same goes to any of my Asheville friends, I hope we get the chance to share some great brews and conversations.

There are so many events, there’s no way Katie and I can do them all. Here are some of the major ones that we have tickets to or are planning to go to:

Monday: Green Man for the ABA Hoppy Saison release, Asheville Brewing Company for the Perfect Day IPA release, possibly a beer or 2 at LAB, French Broad flight night at Barleys and of course, Thirsty Monk.

Tuesday: A beer here, a beer there and then BELGIAN BEER AT THE BALL PARK MINI-FEST! Nine innings, 9 breweries, 27 beers. Thank goddess that there’s a free shuttle. With this kind of drinking, it’s doubtful we’ll do anything but pass out at the hotel afterwards. I’m ready to drink until I find baseball interesting.

Wednesday: Bell’s Tap takeover at Thirsty Monk, Stone’s Mitch Steele meet and greet book signing at Bruisin’ Ales, and App Vintner’s mini-fest (Sexual Chocolate, OMG!).

Thursday: Thirsty Monk’s NC v SC Craft Beer Civil War, Highland’s 6 Barrel Shoot Out, Wicked Weed’s Saison Tap Takeover, a quick pint at the Winehaus (free OB glass), and the Premier of Crafting a Nation film at Asheville Brewing Company’s Merrimon location.

Friday: Beer Marketing that Doesn’t Suck workshop at Hotel Indigo, High Wire brewing release at Thirsty Monk, Greenlife grocery beer and cheese pairing and Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting.

Saturday: Touring Riverbend Malt House, Beer City Festival and beers afterwards at various bars/ breweries around town.

Sunday: Searching for replacement liver, last minute bottle shopping and going home.

Enjoy the pictures below from the Scene VIP party. I am also linking this Video of Beer Guy Tony Kiss interviewing a few people. If you look closely, you’ll see Katie and me in the background of a few shots.

We’ll be in Asheville by Monday afternoon, see you then.

-Ratchet


Surprise beerday birthday trip from @JuneBugBatticus to Asheville #AvlBeer @WickedWeedBeer @AVLBeerWeek @ChocolateLounge

May 7, 2013

By Asheville Beer Week guest blogger Ratchet, Ratchetbrews.com

This past weekend I celebrated my birthday. Honestly, I didn’t make plans and figured I would just go have a drink at one of my favorite local bars here in Knoxville, maybe catch a movie and generally be low key about it. The older I get, the less important celebrating my birthday is to me. I mean, who wants to grow old? If I wasn’t for my amzing drop dead gorgeous girlfriend, I probably would just stayed at home, cleaned my house and organized my beer cellar. BOR-RING! Luckily I have DO have an amazing, drop dead gorgeous, craft beer loving, travel companion of a girlfriend. Staying at home and not celebrating wasn’t an option. She told me that I only turn (insert random number here) once and she was determined to help me make the most of it and drink some beer! She gave me a great birthday gift by booking us a short get away to our favorite BEER CITY, Asheville.

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

Beer City USA, 90 minutes that way!

The plan was to leave Saturday after seeing some friends at the kick off of Knoxville’s Market Square Farmer’s Market. For various reasons, we didn’t leave town until after lunch. That was totally fine with me since I was able to have nachos and a White Mule pale ale at The Downtown Grill and Brewery before hitting the road.

We arrived to a rainy Asheville. After checking in to the hotel we always stay at, Downtown Inn and Suites, it was time for some bottle shopping! The first (and my favorite) bottle shop we stopped at was Bruisin’ Ales.  As soon as I knew we were going to Asheville, I reworked my budget so I could buy rarities not available at home to replenish my cellar. Shopping at Bruisin’ is great. Not only is it owned by 2 of the coolest people in Beer City, Julie and Jason Atallah, but they also have great selections to try with their sip and shop. You also never know who you are going to run into there. As was the case when this time when I ran into local emcee/street poet/ artist by the name of Chachillie. We spoke for a little while and he ran an idea for a music video by me. He also kicked a freestyle rhyme out on the sidewalk in front of the store. I saw Julie on her way out and got a birthday hug. After going over our options Katie and I made our purchases and decided to head up the road to our next stop, Appalachian Vintner.

App Vintner as it’s known also boast an amazing selection of beer, wine and other libations. Located in the outskirts of what’s considered the Biltmore Village area, they have a bar with an expanded tap selection. They go out of their way to have rare and tasty beers on tap. I purchased a half pour of a 2011 vintage Uinta Labyrinth.  My primary loyalty will always be to Bruisin‘ but the great thing about having multiple bottle shops in town is that there is always something different. Some shops sell out of certain brands and varieties sooner than others. Katie and I spent even more money and I was able to pick up a few things to share with my friends. I also got a gift for my buddy Richard Groves so he can have something special for his 1000th Untappd check in.

Well with 2 bottles shops down, we thought that we might as well hit one more just to see what else we could find. Hops and Vines is a homebrew store with a limited bottle selection. Since it’s primarily known as a place to buy brewing supplies, they sometimes have a few rare craft beer bottles that are sold out elsewhere else. I picked up a 6 year vertical of Sierra Nevada’s BigFoot Barley wine at a decent price and 1 or 2 other things. At this point it was getting late and we still hadn’t hit any breweries. It was time to go a few blocks up the road to Altamont Brewing Company.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Altamont Brewing on a rainy day in May.

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

Katie enjoying beer at Altamont

The last time Katie and I visited Altamont they had just started brewing. At that time they only had their porter on draft. This time around they’ve been at it for a while and had a great variety. Since we were brewery hopping and planned on hitting as many places as possible, we only stayed for one drink. I had the Hopped Red and Katie had the Amber. Both were delicious and well crafted. We drank our beer while listening to live music and soaking up the local vibe. I really like the neighborhood bar feel of Altamont and will make sure to always fit it into our itinerary.

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Drinking and winking at Altamont Brewing Company.

The next stop of the evening was another must visit when in Asheville, Wedge Brewing Company. Everyone knows I love Wedge’s beers, location and complimentary peanuts. We found a table inside by the bar looking towards the fermenters. We drank half pours of the Hellesbock, Derailed Hemp Seed Ale, Witbier and a Saison of theirs that I hadn’t had before. By the time I ate a whole bowl of free peanuts, I realized a little too late how hungry I was and how I hadn’t eaten since lunch. It was time to leave and head for dinner (and another round of drinks) at Wicked Weed.

We arrived at Wicked Weed through the pouring rain. It was a Saturday night, so we knew to expect a wait for a table. We checked in with the hostess and got a pager to tell us when our seats would be ready. Down the stairs we headed to  grab a drink. As I walked towards the Downstairs bar I heard “Hey Ratchet!” I turned around and who did I see but Wicked Weed’s head brewer Luke! We spoke for a while and he talked about the brewery’s success, the sour and barrel programs and introduced me to his brother Walt who is in charge of those. All this time I was sipping on their Genesis Blonde Sour. After some great conversation with the Dickinson brothersKatie and I headed upstairs to have a meal. By this time my stomach wasn’t doing so great. All the beer I had drank throughout the day combined with Wedge’s peanuts was not a good combination. I ordered fries and a beer and could not finish them. This was my fault for not eating anything substantial since earlier in the day. I know better but in the excitement of everything, I had just plain forgot. I alternated between watching my darling nom on one of Wicked Weed‘s epic burgers and going outside to walk off my discomfort in the rain.

After leaving Wicked Weed it was time for a nightcap at Thirsty Monk. I still wasn’t feeling up to putting anything else in my belly, so I just went and sat with Katie at the downstairs bar as she sipped a few tasty Belgian style ales.

The next morning the weather was still rainy and chilly. It was Cinco De Mayo which Katie is big on, (must be ’cause she’s originally from Texas) so she insisted on tracking down some great Mexican food. First things first, we had to get coffee. Much like I am with beer, I am a coffee connoisseur. I usually only drink fair trade organically grown coffee fertilized with crystalized free range unicorn tears and hand roasted by Norwegian elf spirits. I would rather have a headache from not getting my morning cup-a-joe than drink hotel coffee. Over the years I have had coffee from many places all within a walking radius of the hotel. I’ve been searching for that perfect cup. I finally found it. From now on it’s only French Broad Chocolate Lounge‘s Counter Culture French press coffee for my morning fix. They also have the best selection of pastries, cakes, liquid truffels and other tasty treats to go with it. I got my french press light roast and Katie opted for the Oaxaca Hot Chocolate. I saw they had Highland Mocha Stout cake and couldn’t pass up getting a slice.

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolte

Oaxaca and Highland Mocha Stout cake at French Broad Chocolate

After coffee and my decadent snack, it was time to get a solid meal. Looking up Mexican fare on our phones, Katie found Limones. It seemed like exactly what she was looking for, so we headed over. I’m really glad we went. The service, decor and food was all top-notch. I didn’t need a big meal having had cake previously. I knew I wanted a cervesa so I could earn my Cinco De Mayo badge on Untapped. I chose Bohemia after looking up reviews for it online. It’s was a very decent Czech style pilsner brewed in Mexico. It was light, refreshing and paired great with my scrambled eggs and home fries. We ate and ended up boxing plenty of food for later.

The day was getting on and I had things to do back at home in Knoxville. My friend Vanessa was up from Florida visiting my son and his mom, and I didn’t want to miss her before she left. After a quick stop at Earth Fare to look for more beer, Katie and I hopped back on the interstate for the drive home. Our trip to Asheville this time was short but sweet. We are already looking forward to our week-long vacation for Asheville Beer Week. There are so many events during that time that we’re still trying to decide which ones to go to.  We already have tickets to a few things such as the Asheville Rare and Wild Beer Tasting and Beer City fest.

Thanks for reading about my Asheville birthday trip. I highly encourage everyone reading this to get your friends to go online and VOTE. Let them use your tablet, your smart phone, you sister’s mac, your weird brother’s Linux, the library computer or that 56k modem your grandma is still has hooked up to go vote for Asheville to retain the yearly title of  Beer City USA. The polls are private this year but Grand Rapids is being very vocal in the comments. Let’s help Asheville win the bragging rights for the 5th year in a row. Once again, Click here to vote.

Enjoy my photos below. Click on them to enlarge.

Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet
Until next time, Cheers,

Ratchet


Great Impromptu St. Patrick’s Day Brewing Party w/ Friends @RichardGroves @ZMachine85 @DeafGoat

March 17, 2013

Originally this post was going to be another live blogging of brew day. I actually started it that way, but brew day was incredibly busy and fun as you’ll read below. There is no way I could have blogged everything in real time. Instead, this post is my recollection of  what could possibly be the best weekend I’ve had in months. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. I started off Friday evening by heading to my 4 favorite watering holes downtown. Of course I’m talking about Downtown Grill and Brewery, Suttree’s, The Casual Pint and The Peter Kern Library. I wanted to be out enjoying the weather and the company of friends after a long work week.

On the Megatouch Machine at the upstairs bar, Downtown Grill and Brewery

On the Megatouch Machine at the upstairs bar, Downtown Grill and Brewery

I spent the 1st half of Saturday doing, chores, cleaning my house while enjoying the spring  breeze blowing through my open windows and screen doors. Later I spent some time with my son, then headed downtown to see Cutthroat Shamrock play a free show at Market Square. I planned on getting a lil’ swilly, so I left the car at home and walked the less then a mile from my house to downtown (never drink and drive y’all- it’s a horrible idea). I pre-gamed with a beer at home, some blackberry moonshine (thanks Nijoli!) mixed with coca-cola and ice in a to go cup for the walk. Once downtown I stopped by The Casual Pint where I met with a few friends. I slowly sipped on a beer until it was time for Cutthroat to take the stage. Once the band started, I realized I was sobering up and should do something about it. I didn’t want to pay $2 for a wrist band to buy $5 crappy beers on the square, so I walked over to Downtown Wine and Spirits and grabbed a bottle of Bourbon. I was able to sneak it in my pocket, went to Subway and bought a large coke. Mixed it up and took my cup to the front of the stage where I met up with more friends. I got to say, I love this band.  Now I don’t like to talk about it on my blog, but my close friends know my personal life. Let’s just say it was a rough week. As the bourbon worked it’s magic I cut loose. Dancing to Cutthroat Shamrock’s celtic/punk/bluegrass/ piratey tunes was absolutely cathartic. I was in motion for the whole time. I shared my drink and others did the same. Flask were passed about, beers were shared, complete strangers danced with arms around each other. The show came to an end around 10:30 but I was so amped there’s no way I wanted to go home. I knew Suttree’s was packed, so I headed back over to see my friends at The Casual Pint. There was only 2 people working and they were super busy. Nena was worried about underage people coming in, or people stealing beer off the shelves. I offered to play doorman for a while for a couple of beers. I sat at the door and checked IDs. People I knew walked past and stopped to talk. I remember more beer being shared, a snort or 2 of someone’s homemade white lightning and a  few swigs of wine. 11:30 and I knew it was time to walk home. I had planned on going to The Casual Pint’s Bearden location the next morning for their kegs and eggs event before brewing beer. It was a long, rough walk home with many stops to rest on the way. I got home, past out, woke up in the middle of the night, drank some vitamin water and took some ibuprofen. 7:30 am alarm Sunday morning and I got up, made coffee and headed to breakfast.

Well I enjoyed my omelet with Richard and his wife Sandy, and headed home to start brewing. I had success cultivating Heady Topper‘s yeast strain, Conan, from a couple of cans I saved for just that. I took my direction from this wonderful blog past and was able to step up to a 4500 ml starter between Wednesday and Saturday. Honestly, I was very worried it wouldn’t work. I made the starter on Wednesday, pitched the yeast dregs from the cans into the flask on the stir plate and waited. Two days went by with no activity. I thought my experiment was a failure and was already planning to use my old standby, Safale US-05. However by Saturday morning the starter was rapidly fermenting. YES! This yeast strain was a big part of the batch of beer I planned, and I knew it wouldn’t be the same without it.

Sunday my friends Jerry and Millie were the 1st to arrive. Jerry was very helpful when it came to getting everything set up. Usually I start brewing at the crack of dawn, and starting at 10 am instead is a lot later than usual. Having an extra set of hands, along with Millie documenting everything, was awesome. Next to arrive was assistant brewer Richard, followed by Todd. Millie ran to Earth Fare and picked up an incredible variety of sushi.

Once we got going, I started texting friends to come over. Beer and buddies on a perfect spring like day, what could be better? My friend Chris is hosting a group of law students from Kansas who are interning for his environmental law center on their spring break. I told him he was more than welcome to bring them over to learn to brew beer and enjoy a few. I was expecting maybe 3 or 4 people, and the next thing I know, there is a dozen or so people gathering in my basement brewery. Awesome! The more the merrier! The spring breakers were absolutely thrilled to lend a hand and learn about the brewing process.  Terri and Aimee from the Knox Beer Crew came over. More and more friends arrived.  At one point there were 24 people there laughing, talking, drinking, and dancing to good Irish/celtic punk  like Flogging Molly, The Pogues, The Tossers, Cutthroat Shamrock and Dropkick Murphys on my Pandora feed. This was a proper St. Patrick’s day party! The beer was really flowing and I was on top of the world! We drank down my stash and I can honestly say I now have room for food in my upstairs refrigerator again.

Well brew day eventually came to an end. With all the people there, cleaning was a breeze. People started taking off a few at a time. The law students wanted to go check out Ijams Nature park while it was still light out. The crowd got smaller and smaller. Eventually I was by myself, exhausted but incredibly happy and a little bit buzzed. I laid back on my couch in my brew basement for a few minutes and enjoyed the silence with a big old grin on my face. I knew I should eat dinner. I didn’t want the weekend to come to a close so I got up and walked back downtown for food. I ordered a half Dan’s pasta at the Brewery and went and visited Suttree’s for a sample size beer while my food cooked. After a few minutes I picked up my order to go and brought it over to The Casual Pint and washed it down with 2 more sample size beers.  As I walked back across the Gay Street bridge while the sun set, I thought about how no matter what’s gone on recently in my life, I am truly blessed. I have good friends, I brew beer people enjoy, I have food, clothing, shelter and a good job. All that and I had one hell of a weekend.

Here’s to many more.

Good Friends, good beer, good times.

Ratchet

PS. Every brew day should be a party. I plan on brewing again on Sunday, April 21st. If you’d like to come over, send me an email or text me. Also Nantahala Brewing Company’s next Trail Magic bottle release is this Saturday the 23rd at Noon. Richard and I are going if you’d like to join us. We plan on getting there by noon and being back in Knoxville by 4 pm or so.


LIVE From the Tennessee Winter Beer Festival in Townsend #KnoxBeer

February 9, 2013

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Hello there from the Laurel Valley Country Club in Townsend Tennessee! I will be reporting live all day about all the beer, food, fun and camaraderie at the 2nd annual Tennessee Winter Beer Festival. I will also be posting pictures, LOTS of pictures. So if I met you at the festival, and you happen to see your picture on my website, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

2:10 pm: Still setting up & waiting for Brewers to arrive. Hope everything is ready for when the doors open at 3.

Baskets of rare beer to were one of the many items to bid on for the silent auction.

Baskets of rare beer to were one of the many items to bid on for the silent auction.

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Drinking games

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Calfkiller setting up

3:20 pm: The doors are open and the beer is flowing! Prosit!

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Katie and Richard

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Marty Velas (center) and The Smoky Mountain Brewery crew

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Heidi & Nathan from The Casual Pint

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Shawn Kerr

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Erich From Studio Brew

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Mike from The Market in Maryville & Rob from Knox Beer Snobs

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Volunteers checking people in.

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Calfkiller has amazing beer!

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4:45 pm: I just finished walking around serving jalapeño poppers & talking to many great people. Thanks for the support!

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Todd, El Presidente of The TN Winter Beer Festival Board

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deliciousness!

I helded the Kitchen staff for awhile by serving these incredibly tasty Jalapeno poppers.

I helped the Kitchen staff for awhile by serving these incredibly tasty Jalapeno poppers.

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Attendees enjoyed the beer and weather on the back patio

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Cheers!

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I love the contrast of the shadows and light on this picture, Great time speaking with y’all.

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This gentleman looks like he is having a great time.

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Really cool guys I enjoyed speaking with. Send me an email sometime, let’s get together for a beer or 3.

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I really enjoyed speaking with all the other homebrewers that I met.

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5:50 pm So many good beers & good people. I took a quick break from beer to drink some water & I’m now sipping on Smoky Mountain’s Russian Imperial Stout. Check out my untappd feed to see the tasty beers being consumed.

Bands provided the soundtrack to the fest.

Bands provided the soundtrack to the fest.

6 pm: Saw Works just tapped their much anticipated Bourbon Barrel aged Double Chocolate Porter to much fanfare.

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First pour of Saw Works Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Porter

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The Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Porter ran out quickly.

6:30: Just ate some food upstairs. Loooong line. Calfkiller ran out of most of their beer & is down to their classic Stout.

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Food was provided upstairs

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Calfkiller’s beers went rather fast. Here they are down to their last keg of stout.

7 pm: Andy shares Cigars!

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Andy shared cigars with other attendees. Here his is sharing one with Katie Duncan.

7:30 pm Dirty Pictionary! (I’ll upload video tomorrow)

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Shawn drawing pictures for dirty pictionary.

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Rebecca Tatum hosted the games

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Don of the Knox Beer Snobs hollering something or other during dirty pictionary.

8 pm: The festival has an hour to go until it’s over. Most of the brewers are out of beer. Making plans with brewer friends for afterwards.

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Happy Attendees

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Depot Street

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Chris who organizes Knoxville Brewers Jam grooving to some music.

8:33 pm: Remember y’all, it’s for the kids.

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All the Proceeds went to the New Hope Advocacy Center. http://www.BlountKids.org

9:28 pm: The TN Winter Beer Fest has come to an end. My phone died for awhile, but a lot happened in the last hour. Calfkiller won the People’s choice award. I want to personally congratulate Robin Carbaugh who bid on and won a keg of my homebrew in the silent auction. I look forward to bringing you some tasty beer.

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The bidding sheet for my homebrew

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Calfkiller wins the People’s choice award

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Adam Palmer from Saw Works announcing the winners of the silent auction.

Update, the next morning: Thankfully I took care of myself yesterday by eating, drinking vitamin water & slowly sipping my beer so I’m hangover free. I want to thank everyone involved in putting this wonderfully cozy little festival together. With any luck, I’ll be participating as a pro-brewer pouring my beer for everyone. I’ve been updating this site through an app, but once I get to a computer I’ll upload a few little video snippets & add in links. Once again, if our paths crossed at this festival, I’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment below.

Cheers

Ratchet


Pre-opening Tour of @WickedWeedBeer, Visit to @OskarBluesWNC, A Beery Christmas and a Happy Brew Year!

January 4, 2013

This year I once again took my pre-Christmas beercation to Asheville. Here I am trying to recall my trip some 2 beer soaked weeks later for this blog. I might have forgotten some details, but here it is. I had been looking forward to this trip for some time. I booked my favorite hotel over 6 months before the trip that way I knew I have a room. I arrived in Asheville the Friday morning before Christmas, got settled into the room and headed out to hit the town. My first stop in “Beer City USA” is almost always to Bruisin’ Ales. Green Man Brewery had just released two limited edition bottles, L’Homme Vert a slightly funky winter farmhouse ale brewed with roasted winter squash and Schadenfreude a Berliner style sour wheat beer. Like with all the Green Man limited releases, I called Bruisin’ Ales ahead of time and had them hold on to them for me. They limited purchases to 2 bottles maximum per customer, but that is fair considering only 150 750ml bottles of each were released.

Picture courtesy of Green Man Brewery's facebook page.

Picture courtesy of Green Man Brewery’s facebook page.

After sipping, shoppin’ and buying myself plenty of holiday cheer in liquid form, it was time for some bar hopping. Usually I stick to the downtown area of Asheville, but I wanted to go check out Hops and Vine and also a new brewery on the same street, Altamont Brewing Company.

Hops & Vines on Haywood Street. great homebrew and bottle shop that I will visit each time I go to Asheville from now on.

Hops & Vines on Haywood Street. A great homebrew and bottle shop that I will visit each time I go to Asheville from now on.

Inside Hops and Vine

Inside Hops and Vine

After a few more bottle purchases at Hops and Vine, along with some ingredients for my next brew day it was time to go check out Altamont Brewing Company. I walked in to the big space that has look and feel that it use to be a garage. It was big and spacious and had a very “neighborhood bar” feeling. I noticed that most of the taps were other local brands. I asked the bartender and he said that they had just started brewing and that day had released their very first beer for sale, a brown porter. I placed my order and immediately fell in love with this beer, it was so good. I spoke to the bartender to learn more about their brewery. He introduced me to brewer Gordon Kear who offered to take me to go look at the equipment.

The outside of Altamont Brewing

The outside of Altamont Brewing

The Bar at Altamont Brewing

The Bar at Altamont Brewing

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Looking back towards the brewing area

Altamont's Yummy porter

Altamont’s Yummy porter

Altamont's Brewing system

Altamont’s Brewing system

Fermenters and bright tanks at Altamont

Fermenters and bright tanks at Altamont

Gordon was really cool and happy to show me around and talk beer. We spoke at some length. He told me that he use to be a brewer at Flagstaff Brewing Company in Arizona. He said that he and his partner started the bar first with the idea that eventually they would start a brewery with profits from the business. They got a good deal on some used equipment and got everything up and running. They have several brews in the fermenters that they will be releasing soon.

Gordon Kear, Brewer at Altamont and myself.

Gordon Kear, Brewer at Altamont and myself.

All said, I really liked this place. The overall vibe, the laid back atmosphere, the friendliness of the clientel and the employees along the fact that they hold the love of brewing quality beer above all else. It is a place I will be happy to make the 5 minute drive from downtown to visit often in the future. I’m looking forward to tasty offerings from them.

Last minute work on Wicked Weed's building

Last minute work on Wicked Weed’s building

After awhile it was time to head back downtown for the next stop. That very evening, Wicked Weed was debuting their tasty beer at one of the best craft beer bars in the world, The Thirsty Monk. The first beer was scheduled to pour at 5:30. I walked into a packed bar shortly there after. You could tell that the locals were excited to try the newest edition to Asheville’s beer scene.  I sat down at the bar and was immediately welcomed by my bartender buddy Clete. Come to find out he is now a full time pharmacy student which is why I haven’t seen him my last several stops to the Monk Pub. Seems that he came out to work at the bar to lend a hand for Wicked Weed’s Debut.

Inside of Thirsty Monk at Wicked Weed's beer debut

Inside of Thirsty Monk at Wicked Weed’s beer debut

There were 2 beers by Wicked Weed being poured. The first one I tried was called Tyranny, a very hoppy west coast style red ale. As soon as I had my 1st sip I knew Wicked Weed brewed quality beer.

From Thirst Monk's beer menu

From Thirsty Monk’s beer menu

A few short moments later, Wicked Weed’s Brewer, Luke Dickinson came over and introduced himself. We had been communicating online and through text message the previous few days about getting a short “pre-opening” tour of his new establishment. It was great to finally meet him in person. He was spoke for a few minutes about his beer, opening the brewery and made plans to tour the next day. Through out the night I saw him light up as person after person came up to him to compliment his brewing skills. He was humble, down to earth and very appreciative of everyone’s support.

Myself and Luke from Wicked Weed Brewing

Myself and Luke from Wicked Weed Brewing

I had to venture to Thirsty Monk’s downstairs Belgium bar to get my next Wicked Weed beer, Saison 1. I brought it back up to my upstairs spot at the bar. As I took a big sip, I was truly blown away. I typically rate beers I haven’t tried before on the Untappd app on my iPhone. It’s based on a 5 cap rating. Although I am pretty generous with my 4 out of 5 rating, it takes a really special beer to get me to go all the way to 5.  Saison 1 is such a beer in my opinion.

After enjoying some brew at The Thirsty Monk, I headed over to French Broad Chocolate Lounge for dessert before dinner. If you ever go to Asheville, you’d be sorry not to visit this wonderful little spot. Their liquid truffles are good enough to make a grown man cry (not me, must have been someone else). After getting a serious chocolate high I stopped in Mast General Store to grab a winter hat (it was a cold and very windy night) . A few blocks over I downed a quick beer at Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Avenue, then it was dinner time.  I consider everything in Downtown Asheville to be within walking distance. A few minutes later I arrived at  Lexington Avenue Brewery and grabbed a seat. In the past the beer at LAB has always been hit or miss (mostly miss) with me, but the food is always good. There was a deejay playing some chill hip hop tunes as I order dinner and beer. I ate and drank and found myself full and tired. It became time to stumble back to the room and prepare for the next day.

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Saturday after breakfast and coffee, it was time for some more beer based adventuring! I went for a drive to visit the new Oskar Blues plant in Brevard 40 minutes away. There is a free trolly that  leaves from downtown Asheville in the evenings, but I had other plans for later on, so I’ll save that experience for another time. The new plant is located in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere. When I arrived I knew I was in the right place from the signs, but couldn’t immediately tell where the tap room was. After looking around, I eventually located it.

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“Oh, it’s around the corner!” Thanks small, hard to read sign!

Aka small door located on a massive loading dock.

Aka small door located on a massive loading dock.

When you walk through the door, you are immediately inside of a massive warehouse. Up some stairs over looking everything is the bar.

Inside Oskar Blues

Inside Oskar Blues

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Upstairs over looking the main floor is the bar that pours Oskar Blues’ beer. The bar is in the middle with more seating on either side. Off to the right is merchandise for sale and a cooler with beer that you can purchase to go.

Looking toward the bar area from the main floor.

Looking toward the bar area from the main floor.

Seating to the left of the bar

Seating to the left of the bar

Merchandise area at Oskar Blues

Merchandise area at Oskar Blues

I had come for a tour, but an hour early. So I did what I do, I ordered a flight.

A flight at Oskar Blues in Brevard (before)

A flight at Oskar Blues in Brevard (before)

...and after.

…and after.

The tour started and the brewer Noah Tuttle showed us around and told us about the brewery and the plans for expansion. The massive warehouse space was purchased with growth in mind and only a small fraction of it was being used. At the time they only had one of the massive 200 barrel fermenters going. They have a 50 barrel brewing system and are only brewing once a day. I asked him about this and he said that it took them 4 days of brewing to fill the one fermenter.  Other fermenters they had weren’t even hooked up yet. As we spoke, I asked him how they planned to make the Oskar Blues beer from Brevard be exactly like the Oskar Brews beer brewed in Longmont, CO. He was upfront and honest that because of different conditions such as water chemistry and elevation, the beer would be slightly different. It is still the same ingredients and the focus on quality. Hopefully the average craft beer drinker would not be able to tell the difference. Because of these slight differences in brewing conditions, the Oskar Blues cans will be labeled with what plant they were brewed at.

Very healthy and vigorous fermentation

Very healthy and vigorous fermentation

Yes thoughts of "maybe I can scoop up and cultivate some of Oskar blues's yeast for my homebrewery" did enter my head. I didn't have a mason jar, and not sure how happy they'd be about that.

Yes thoughts of “maybe I can scoop up and cultivate some of Oskar Blues’ yeast  strain for my homebrewery” did enter my head. I didn’t have a mason jar, and not sure how happy they’d be about that.

Oskar Blues' brewing system

Oskar Blues’ brewing system

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Kegging area

Kegging area

Test batch

Test batch

Outside of Oskar Blues

Outside of Oskar Blues

After the tour I wanted to head back to Asheville. I purchased a four pack of oSKAr the g’Rauch a rare collaboration beer with Ska Brewing Company and a few cans of Root Beer to take back with me.

Craft Root Beer

Craft Root Beer

I had a 5 pm meeting with Luke over at Wicked Weed, but got back to Asheville early. I went over to one of my favorite breweries, Wedge, for a quick pint while I waited. Since Asheville has excellent food trucks, I grabbed a tofu quesadilla from El Kimchi.

El Kimchi's food is awesome!

El Kimchi’s food is awesome!

Stickers on El Kimchi's truck

Stickers on El Kimchi’s truck

The Beer Menu at Wedge.

The Beer Menu at Wedge.

I always love the beer and atmosphere at Wedge. However I had a 5 pm meeting to go to, so couldn’t stay as long as I’d like.

Fermenters at Wedge.

Fermenters at Wedge.

As 5 pm approached, I made my way over to Wicked Weed to meet with Luke. I was really honored that he  had agreed to give me a quick pre-opening tour of Asheville’s newest brewery.

Wicked Weed is located right next to the Orange Peal. Perfect place for dinner and drinks before a show.

Wicked Weed is located right next to the Orange Peel on Biltmore Avenue. It’s the perfect place for dinner and drinks before a show.

See, right next door.

See, right next door.

Outside patio seating area at Wicked Weed.

Outside patio seating area at Wicked Weed.

As I met Luke and he brought me inside the first thing that struck me was how absolutely beautiful this place is. They employed local crafts people and sourced local material to build a truly stunning dinning room and bar. The tap handles are all hand carved. Luke pointed out a spot on the wood bar that had civil war musket balls embedded in the wood.

Hand carved tap handles

Hand carved tap handles

If you look closely, you can see the musket balls embedded in the wood. If you go, they are in front of the tap handles at the upstairs bar.

If you look closely, you can see the musket balls embedded in the wood. If you go, they are in front of the tap handles at the upstairs bar.

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Upstairs dining area, notice the long community table

After being shown around upstairs, it was time to go  downstairs to see where the magic happens.

Downstairs bar area

Downstairs bar area

The outside of the bar is finished with wood from old barrels

The outside of the bar is finished with wood from old barrels

Taps at the downstairs bar

Taps at the downstairs bar

Wicked Weed's 15 barrel brewing system

Wicked Weed’s 15 barrel brewing system

15 barrel system. 1 barrel = 31 gallons of beer.

15 barrel system. 1 barrel = 31 gallons of beer.

Luke talked enthusiastically about beer and brewing. He has experience brewing in Germany and had previously worked at Dogfish Head.

Luke showing Wicked Weed's fermenters

Luke showing Wicked Weed’s fermenters and bright tanks

Cold room at Wicked Weed

Cold room at Wicked Weed

One of the coolest things about Wicked Weed (and from talking to Luke, I could tell one of his favorite) is their open fermenter. They have built a special positive pressurized, air filtered room with a big tank for open fermenting of  Belgium style beers. Luke advises that based on his experience in Germany, open fermentation can really make a difference on certain styles of beer. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that his Saison 1 was so tasty.

Open fermenter. He plans on hanging a big mirror overhead some that people can see it bubbling away.

Open fermenter. He plans on hanging a big mirror overhead some that people can see it bubbling away.

Wicked Weed also in very much into barrel fermenting and aging beer. They have plans to extend their barrel room.

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Plans are in the works to extend Wicked Weed’s barrel program

I could have stayed and talked beer all day with Luke, but I knew he had to get ready for an event that night. I thanked him for showing me around. On my way out I ran into another member of the crew who remembered talking to me at their brewery announcement at Wedge during Asheville Beer Week.  I’m really looking forward to my next trip back to Asheville so I can eat, drink and be merry at their fine establishment. I have a feeling that this will be my new favorite place!

"May the force carbonation be with you!"

“May the force carbonation be with you!”

After leaving Wicked Weed and grabbing a quick bite to eat, it was time to head out to another one of my favorite places, Green Man’s tasting room, Dirty Jack’s. I wanted to pick up another couple of bottles of the limited releases and have a few more beers.

Dirty Jack's aka the Green man tap room.

Dirty Jack’s aka the Green Man tap room.

They just happen to have a cask of Armageddon Ale they had brewed for the previous day’s end of the world party. I love barrel aged cask conditioned beers and this one did not disappoint!

Very tasty

Very tasty

Since the tap room at Dirty Jack’s doesn’t stay open late, there was one more place to visit before turning in for the night. That’s right, time to head to The Thirsty Monk where I tried Stone Brewing’s Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout.

This is good, but I couldn't drink a lot of them in a row.

This is good, but I couldn’t drink a lot of them in a row.

A few more half pours later and it was time to sleep. Luckily the hotel is less then a block away.

Sunday morning I had a few things I wanted to do before heading home to Knoxville. I ate breakfast at the hotel, packed my ride and headed towards Hops and Vine to pick up a few more of the Green Man bottles for people back home. I got there and realized that it didn’t open for an hour. I had time to kill so I went in search of coffee. I found a little shop right down the road that looked like a regular house from the outside. The coffee was good and I spent the rest of the time checking the fluids and gassing up my car for the trip. Finally Hops and Vine opened and I made some last minute purchases.

Coffee shop on found on Haywood Avenue.

Coffee shop on found on Haywood.

As much as I love Asheville, It was time to head home. I arrived in Knoxville and that night headed over to  Knox Beer Snob Rob’s house to share some rare beer with friends.

Bottom left, clockwise: Rob of Knox Beer Snobs, Ratchet, Matt of Knox Beer Crew, Mike from The Market in Maryville, Jeff Haws, Don of Knox Beer Snobs, Shawn Kerr,  Josh Archer giving a toast to Jason Anderson and his recently deceased pal, Blu.

Bottom left, clockwise: Rob of Knox Beer Snobs, Ratchet, Matt of Knox Beer Crew, Mike from The Market in Maryville, Jeff Haws, Don of Knox Beer Snobs, Shawn Kerr, Josh Archer  all giving a toast to Jason Anderson and his recently deceased pal, Blu.

Stone Vertical tasting. Big Shout out to Animal aka Jason Anderson for sharing these with us.

Stone Vertical tasting. Big Shout out to Animal aka Jason Anderson for sharing these with us.

More beer we shared that night

More beer we shared that night

The next day was Christmas eve. I decided to line up the Christmas presents that I bought for myself in Asheville and take some pictures.

I was a good boy this year!

I was a good boy this year!

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Yum!

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Yum!

My Green Man Limited Bottle releases. I had each one so far.

My Green Man Limited Bottle releases. I had each one so far.

Christmas came and that night I went over to my friend’s condo downtown for beer before going to see the Tarantino movie, Django Unchained. The next night I celebrated my 1000th unique check in on Untappd with a bottle I had been saving since March for just that occasion, Green Man’s Funk 49, an American Sour Red.

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Special occasions call for special bottles

Finally!

Finally!

Saturday was the monthly Knox Beer Crew meeting at Suttree’s. It was good seeing everyone and sharing rare beers such as this little gem brought by Jason Smith:

Hand signed and individually numbered Rogue's Fifteen Thousand Brew Ale

Hand signed and individually numbered Rogue’s Fifteen Thousand Brew Ale

Nick also surprised me by bringing a bottle of last year’s batch of my Butternut Squash Ale that he had been cellaring:

Sunday I brewed another batch of Cocoa stout that I split into two batches, spicy and regular. The fermentation blew the airlocks and I came home from work one day to find yeast splattered all over the walls and ceiling. It took awhile to clean up the mess.

Hours and hours of scrubbing fun! (Not.)

Hours and hours of scrubbing fun! (Not.)

The last part of the whole holiday beer season was New Year’s Eve spent at Suttree’s. Good friends and good beer were the theme of the evening. The first beer of 2013 was bought by my good friend, and Saccy’s roomate, Jerry. We celebrated the beginning with a bottle of  Brooklyn’s Local # 2.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Now it’s a whole new year with new goals and priorities. Honestly I don’t think I drank beer in the last few days. After the Asheville trip, Christmas, the Knox Beer Crew tasting and New Years I feel like I need a week or 2 to let my liver heal. I do hope that everyone of my readers has an amazing 2013 and experiences many wonderful beers this year. I know I will. Stay tuned, I have BIG plans for the next 12 months.

Cheers to a new year,

Ratchet



TONIGHT 12/7/12! Come try some of my #Homebrew, for FREE!

December 7, 2012
Chocolate Milk Stout with Spicy peppers

Chocolate Milk Stout with Spicy peppers

Hey y’all just a short update this time. Let me start out by saying that last Sunday was a pretty successful brew day thanks to the Help of Richard Groves and Todd Z-Machine. Followed by an incredibly tasty lunch thanks to Kat. We busted out 10 gallons of all grain Belma Hopped Pale ale that I’m calling KBC 505 in honor of an inside joke with some Knox Beer Crew guys I went to GABF with. (No, I’m not going to explain it, ask Mark Baggett, Big Magic, Animal or Matt Crowell to explain it to you- if they can remember the details.) It’s pretty much done fermenting and I anticipate kegging it next weekend. I also anticipating brewing again next weekend, but at this point I’m not sure what.

Measuring Grains for the KBC 505

Measuring Grains for the KBC 505

Mashing in early morning

Mashing in early morning

Mash temps are VERY important

Mash temps are VERY important

So the KBC 505 begins fermentation

So the KBC 505 begins fermentation

Anyway the main point of this post is to invite everyone out to Jackson Avenue Market in the Old City tonight. I am doing a First Friday event with my good friends the Weidenhamer brothers (Matt and Todd). Starting at 6pm I’ll be pouring samples of my Winter seasonal, “I’m Warming You!” which is a Chocolate Milk Stout brewed with Tennessee Cherry Chilis and Jalapenos. My beer is free. However, I think Jackson Avenue Market wants you to purchase a pint glass to pour the beer in. As far as I’m concerned, you are welcome to use your hands to cup beer in, just as long as you clean up any messes afterwards. There is other tasty beer available to purchase and if enough people show up, I’ll hook up my last keg of Oktoberfest to sample after the Stout is gone. I suggest getting there early for several reasons.

  1. The Christmas parade starts at 7 and goes right past the market.
  2. Parking is going to be a bitch (see reason 1).
  3. There’s an awesome band fronted by my friend Jen Parker that is going to rawk the house.
  4. Space in the market will be limited because of reason 3.
  5. My samples are limited. I’m only bring 10 gallons of beer. We are expecting in excess of 100 people showing up to this event, so even giving out sample size pours (and my close friends drinking much more then that), we will go through these kegs pretty quickly.
  6. The most important reason. We don’t hang out enough. I want to see you, my friends and my friends to be.

So please, come out, drink my beer, tell me if you like it or not (be honest, I HATE people who don’t tell you the truth to spare your feelings). If you don’t like it, tell me why.

If you would like to support my ongoing efforts to raise my brand awareness and get my nano-brewery off the ground, I’ll will have a few t-shirts and bottle cap fridge magnets for sale.

I’ll see you tonight, and don’t forget to tip your bar tender 😉

-Ratchet-